Monthly Archives: May 2016

Killaloe Kids BookFest

On May 26 and 27, I visited the Ottawa Valley communities of Barry’s Bay, Wilno and Killaloe to take part in the very first Killaloe Kids BookFest. I had a great time, and it seemed like everyone else did too!

These pictures are all from my visit to Killaloe Public School, who were also hosting older grades from St. Andrews.

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If you’d like to bring me to your school or library, please click on the Speaking link at the top of this page for more information.

Superstitious or Silly?

The Penguins stayed alive in the Eastern Conference final last night, forcing a seventh game on Thursday before we’ll see the Prince of Wales Trophy presented. San Jose could wrap up the Western Conference tonight with a win over St. Louis to claim the Clarence Campbell Bowl.

Though they’re both impressive pieces of silverware, the Conference trophies just don’t mean the same as the Stanley Cup. So much so that it’s become something of a tradition in recent years not to touch the Conference championship trophies (the belief being “This isn’t the trophy we’ve been playing for. We want the Stanley Cup”) – and something of a sport to watch and see who does or doesn’t.

Trophies

Even as superstitions go, this one’s kind of silly. There’s clearly been no correlation whatsoever between which teams touch or don’t touch these trophies and then go on to win or lose the Stanley Cup. And more often than not, BOTH teams don’t touch it, but only one can win.

(If you want to read more about the history and quirks of this superstition, you can check out these links: thehockeywriters.com and broadstreethockey.com)

As early as 1999, when we at Dan Diamond and Associates worked on Wayne Gretzky’s 99: My Life in Pictures, The Great One already believed this was a dopey new superstition:

Gretzky CC

Donated to the NHL in 1925, the Prince of Wales Trophy has been awarded for many things over the years. It’s been presented to a conference champion en route to the Stanley Cup Final since the 1981–82 season, but from 1938–39 to 1966–67, it was presented to the team that finished in first place in the NHL regular-season standings. Sometimes, the circumstances in which it was presented were less than glorious.

In 1967, the Chicago Black Hawks finished first in the NHL standings for the first time in franchise history. They clinched first place in game 61 of the 70-game schedule when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 in Chicago on March 12, 1967. Five days later, the Black Hawks arrived in Toronto ahead of their March 18 return date against the Maple Leafs. They discovered a large crate in their dressing room containing the Prince of Wales Trophy.

They pushed the crate into the washroom and, as Red Burnett wrote in The Toronto Star, “they tried to open it and to have a look at the trophy the Hawks finally captured after 41 years of sweat and tears. It was locked!

Headline

Things never seem to change,” said Chicago coach Billy Reay. “Instead of these trophies catching up to you at home, you bump into them on the road and have to lug them with you. I remember the year my Buffalo team won the AHL title, we played one of our last games in Providence. They had won the cup the year before and tried to save freight costs by having us pack it in our already overcrowded bus. I refused. But this time I’ll suffer. We want to make sure that hunk of silver finally hits Chicago. They’ve waited a long time to see it.

So, the Black Hawks lugged the boxed-up trophy home after a 9–5 loss to Toronto on Saturday night and arranged for their own presentation ceremony at The Chicago Stadium on Sunday, March 19, prior to their game against the Canadiens. Though there’s no actual mention in any story as to whether or not the players ever did touch the trophy, there was certainly no concern about celebrating it!

Chi
Chicago Tribune, March 20, 1967.

After their 4-4 tie with Montreal, the Chicago players departed for the Bismarck Hotel, where they held an official championship celebration. The next day, they were paraded from Wacker Drive and State Street to City Hall, where Mayor Richard J. Daley presented each player with a Certificate of Merit and captain Pierre Pilote took possession of the five-foot tall, gold-tinged Mayor Daley Trophy.

No doubt Chicago hockey fans were pleased by their team’s first place finish, but it all went for naught when the Black Hawks were upset  in the first round of the playoffs by the Maple Leafs, who went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1967. Toronto hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since … so if there really is some bad luck attached to the Prince of Wales Trophy, it obviously stuck to the wrong team that year!

Black Cats For Luck?

As many of you will know, before the opening game of their second-round series with the Nashville Predators a couple of weeks ago, a black cat emerged from the San Jose Sharks bench and ran across the ice. She was rescued under the stands and taken to the local Humane Society where she was dubbed Jo Paw-velski after Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the clip on YouTube. Jo has now found a permanent home, having been recently adopted by a family (fittingly enough) on Friday, May 13!

Sharks

With the little black cat as their unofficial mascot, San Jose got past Nashville in seven games. The Sharks are now tied 1-1 in the Western Conference Final with St. Louis after a big win last night. Who knows how much of this can be attributed to their feline friend, but it turns out that black cats have a long history as good luck charms in the NHL.

Cat GagnonSome of you reading this will know of Johnny Gagnon, who spent most of his ten-year career in the NHL from 1930 to 1940 playing with the Montreal Canadiens. He was known as “Black Cat,” supposedly because of his jet-black hair and piercing eyes – or perhaps because of his cat-like reflexes. Gagnon spent the early part of his career playing right wing on a line with Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, and actually scored the first goal in the 2-0 win I wrote about last week that gave the Canadiens their second of back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 1931.

Interestingly, Gagnon’s coach in Montreal – Cecil Hart – had some sort of thing for black cats, and it had proved lucky for the Canadiens in the playoffs in 1930.

According to a story in the Montreal Gazette on April 1, 1930, Hart had come across a large black cat under the stands at the Montreal Forum before the Canadiens and New York Rangers headed out for a fourth period of overtime a few nights before. Hart patted the cat for luck and Gus Rivers scored a few minutes later to give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory.

Cartoon

Two nights later, Hart chanced upon a black cat again prior to the game at Madison Square Garden, and this time Montreal scored a 2-0 victory to take the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. “Two of the supporters accompanying the team,” said Gazette writer L.S.B. Shapiro, “decided to go ahead with the black cat idea, and now Cecil Hart carries a miniature one in his club bag.

Whether or not the cats made a difference, the Canadiens went on to score a surprising Stanley Cup sweep of a Bruins team that had been one of the greatest in hockey history during the 1929-30 season.

And Hart was apparently not alone with his black cat fetish, as these stories attest:

Ross Cude

But it seems that not all of Cecil Hart’s cat stories worked out so well, as this note in Dink Carroll’s column in the Gazette relates:

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The Mighty Atom and The Stratford Streak

Last week, in my story about the first nationwide hockey broadcasts, I mentioned there would be more this week about the 1931 Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens won the Cup that year in a tight series with the Chicago Black Hawks. It was Montreal’s second championship in a row.

The Canadiens were coming off a tough first-round matchup with the Boston Bruins. That best-of-five series went the distance with three of the games going into overtime. Montreal opened the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago on April 3, 1931, winning the first game 2-1 but dropping a double-overtime decision by the same score two nights later. This best-of-five set then shifted to Montreal for the remaining games, and Chicago took game three 3-2 in triple overtime. Montreal stayed alive with a 4-2 win in game four, setting the stage for the finale on April 14.

In a short feature covering several topics in the March 31, 1962, issues of Canada’s Weekend Magazine, Canadiens legend Aurele Joliat reminisced about the 1931 Stanley Cup Final with sportswriter Andy O’Brien. Joliat’s longtime linemate and great friend Howie Morenz had been the leading scoring in the NHL that season with 51 points (28 goals, 23 assists) while playing in 39 of the season’s 44 games. Through nine playoff games, he’d picked up four assists, but had yet to score a single goal. However, with the Canadiens clinging to a 1-0 lead late in game five, “It was Morenz who scored the goal that broke it up.

Habs
Aurele Joliat (right) kept this picture of him and Howie Morenz in the den of his
Ottawa home. There is no photo credit in the Weekend Magazine story.

Morenz had rushed away from us with the puck down center ice and was checked at the defence,” Joliat recalled. “Some Chicago forward picked it up on the gallop and I checked him at center. I had only taken two strides when I heard ‘Joliat!’ screamed at me from the right wing. It was Morenz who had raced back on my left wing, whirled around behind me and was now under full steam down the right. I gave him a pass. He took it at full speed and went clean through the Hawk defence to beat goalie Charlie Gardner.”

Here’s how Canadian Press staff writer H.M. Peters described the goal at the time:

Howie Morenz had been held scoreless for nine consecutive playoff games. It was unheard of in his career as a professional. Suddenly, he grabbed a puck at center ice and whirled his way around the left defence, hesitating until he was sure of the shot and hammered it home true.

It was some minutes before play could be resumed as the fans showered the ice with programs, newspapers and even hats.

Only four minutes were left and the Canadien supporters’ song of victory, ‘Les Canadiens Sont La,’ was being roared from the rush end.

Newspaper

In Andy O’Brien’s story, Aurele Joliat recalled that he was paid $1,500 as a rookie in 1922-23 and that Morenz earned just $1,200 when he joined the Canadiens the next year.  (More modern sources have Morenz earning $2,500 or $3,500 as a rookie.) Joliat was 60 years old in the spring of 1962 and was working in the information wicket for the CN Railway at Ottawa’s Union Station. He was wistful, O’Brien writes, about the average NHL player being paid $12,500 in 1962.

Modern hockey is so fast I can hardly follow it at times,” said Joliat, “but nobody I’ve seen since Howie could combine so much skill with such tremendous speed.

Looking Back at Listening In

A while ago on this web site, I mentioned my interest in the early history of hockey broadcasts on the radio. Mostly, that relates to the very first broadcasts in 1923 and trying to uncover if there’s anything earlier than the known broadcasts from Toronto that February. Well, this doesn’t pertain to that, but I did find it interesting.

With ratings down all season for hockey broadcasts on Rogers Sportsnet, and as the playoff ratings are said to be taking a huge hit with no Canadian teams involved, let’s take a look back to when national hockey broadcasts began.

Foster pic
This picture of Foster Hewitt appeared in a story in
The Sunday Times-Signal of Zanesville, Ohio, on September 2, 1928.

The first national hockey broadcasts in Canada have long been attributed to the nationwide hookup for the opening game from Maple Leaf Gardens on November 12, 1931. Some sources point to the General Motors Saturday night broadcasts that began in January of 1933 and were later taken over by Imperial Oil. These were the roots of Hockey Night in Canada.

Turns out, however, that the first national broadcasts (much like the earliest broadcasts in 1923) were actually made from the Arena Gardens on Mutual Street. Fittingly, it was a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The date was January 17, 1929 – almost three years before the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens.

Ironically, given radio station CFCA was owned by the Toronto Star, I recently stumbled across word of this in the rival Globe. On January 8, 1929, Globe sportswriter Bert Perry noted at the end of his column:

Perry

When the Montreal Canadiens make their second visit of the season here on Jan. 17 the game will be broadcast over the Canadian National Broadcasting Company’s chain of stations from Halifax to Vancouver. It will be the first time that a Dominion-wide hook-up on a hockey game has been tried in Canada. Some fifteen Canadian stations will relay the play-by-play account to every corner of the country. The fans in Halifax, Edmonton and Vancouver will get the details right from the Arena Gardens as clearly as Toronto listeners-in.

When W.A. Hewitt – father of Foster – mentioned the story a week later in the Toronto Star, he had more (and slightly different) details:

WA

A joint broadcast of unusual interest to Canadian hockey fans will be held on Thursday night of this week when the Maple Leafs-Canadien NHL game will be sent out on the air from Arena Gardens, Toronto. The broadcast is to be given under the joint auspices of the Toronto Daily Star and the Canadian National Railways over Stations CFCA of the Toronto Daily Star at Toronto and the Canadian National Railway’s chain of stations at Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg with CJGX, the Winnipeg Grain Exchange station at Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Foster Hewitt will be at the microphone. This will be the first time that a hockey broadcast of such magnitude has been attempted and the hook-up will interest hockey and radio fans in all parts of Canada.

Foster Hewitt began his nationwide broadcast at 9 o’clock in Toronto.

Ad

The Leafs and Canadiens ended up tied after three periods, and when 10 minutes of overtime settled nothing, they skated off with a 1–1 tie. In one story on the sports pages of the Star, the game was described as “dull for the most part, with both goals coming in the first four minutes of the second period.” (Danny Cox, assisted by Hap Day, scored for Toronto; Sylvio Mantha for Montreal. Howie Morenz was out with an injury.) A story just after the Radio page noted that Hewitt, “described the game in a graphic way.

By the end of the 1930-31 hockey season (still seven months prior to the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens), Foster Hewitt was calling all the most important games on the radio from coast to cost. He called the Memorial Cup finals between the Elmwood Millionaires (Manitoba) and the Ottawa Primroses on March 23, 25 and 27; the Allan Cup games between the Winnipeg Hockey Club and the Hamilton Tigers on March 31 and April 2; and the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final on April 9, 11 and 14 as the Canadiens beat the Black Hawks in five games. (More on the finale of that series next week.)

Writing in the Toronto Star on April 15, 1931, Foster’s father had this to say:

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The hockey season which ended last night with a coast-to-coast network broadcast of the Stanley Cup final was another triumph for CFCA (Toronto Star). Over 50 hockey games were broadcast during the season by Foster Hewitt and these included all the Maple Leaf Hockey Club sheduled games, the finals for the OHA championships in all series, the Allan Cup finals at Winnipeg, the Memorial Cup finals at Toronto and Ottawa and the Stanley Cup finals at Montreal. Foster Hewitt’s voice is now as familiar in Vancouver and Halifax as it is in Toronto and throughout the province of Ontario.

And to show that W.A. Hewitt wasn’t just being a boastful father, consider these stories in the Toronto Star of April 21, 1931, picked up from other Canadian cities:

Praise